The Windhover by Gerard Manley Hopkins


I was recently discussing the similarities between Shamanic journeying and Christianity with a friend. In my own spiritual practice the Falcon is an important symbol and guide, my friend suggested I read The Windhover by Gerard Manley Hopkins (written May, 1877)

My own interpretation of the Falcon is to ‘fly high’ be purposeful, to observe, learn from, heal and ultimately transcend any lower energy that may exist on the ground. It is also about self control. There is a sense of guardianship that comes from the duality of the ‘earthly’ falcon and its ‘spiritual’ counterpart Archangel Michael with his protective sword and shield. In Heraldry the Falcon means ‘One who does not rest until objectives are achieved’. The bird can also be viewed as a metaphor for Christ or of divine epiphany.(Wikipedia)

According to Guardian Books, the theme of Christ’s Passion is central to the poem, along with athletic, natural and often homoerotic grace that is represented by the Falcon (and perhaps his Archangel counterpart) The plunge of The Windhover onto its prey suggests not simply the Fall of man and nature, but the descent of a redemptive Christ into the abyss of human misery and cruelty. To me this is represented perfectly in the Cross. The single point that exists at its centre could be seen as the point of perfect earthly balance or Christ like consciousness and earthly non-duality. On death the intersection of earhlylife (horizontal) with spiritual divinity (vertical) at the centre of the cross provides a  metaphor for the point of consciousness that we pass through as our soul passes from our earth bound existance and back to the arms of God.

A full interpretation of the Windhover can be found here:

The Windhover
To Christ Our Lord

I caught this morning morning’s minion, king-
dom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,
As a skate’s heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding
Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird, – the achieve of, the mastery of the thing.

Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here
Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion
Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!

No wonder of it: shéer plód makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermilion.



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